49ers 53-man roster projection midway through 2018 NFL preseason
Who makes the cut?
The 49ers are midway through their four-game preseason schedule and, it seems, the regular season cannot get here fast enough.
The team had approximately a dozen regulars out of action for the first two exhibition games due to injuries. None of the team’s projected starters have physical limitations expected to carry into the regular season. But potential reserves Erik Magnuson (hamstring) and Joe Williams (ribs) were not so fortunate with the injuries they sustained Saturday night in Houston.
There are still a lot of moving parts and not all roster spots have been locked up, but here is NBC Sports Bay Area’s projection of how the 49ers’ roster could look at the opening of the regular season...
In: Jimmy Garoppolo, C.J. Beathard
Out: Nick Mullens, Jack Heneghan
The 49ers kept two QBs on their regular-season roster throughout last season, and that does not figure to change this year. Mullens has improved dramatically from a year ago, but Beathard remains the clear No. 2. Beathard was hobbled by a foot injury Saturday and might be limited this week.
In: Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida, Kyle Juszczyk, Raheem Mostert, Alfred Morris
Out: Joe Williams, Jeremy McNichols, Malcolm Johnson, Jeff Wilson
Morris is a proven every-down back who provides an insurance policy if anything were to happen to McKinnon and Breida this season. Mostert will be active every game due to his special-teams play. Williams has yet to impress, and he will not play for the remainder of the preseason due to a fractured rib.
In: Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin, Trent Taylor, Dante Pettis, Kendrick Bourne, Aaron Burbridge
Out: Richie James, Aldrick Robinson, Steven Dunbar, Max McCaffrey, (Victor Bolden)
This is one of the more competitive position groups. It is questionable whether another team would claim James off waivers, which would enable the 49ers to bring him back to the practice squad. Burbridge wins his spot because of special teams and improved play as a wideout. Bolden serves a suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances to open the season, so a decision on him will be postponed until after Week 4.
In: George Kittle, Garrett Celek, Cole Hikutini
Out: Cole Wick, Ross Dwelley, Wes Saxton
Kittle had a tremendous offseason program and camp until a separated shoulder shut him down until the start of the regular season. Kittle and Celek will share the playing time, so the competition is for the No. 3 spot. Wick is giving Hikutini a run for the job, but Hikutini’s speed and receiving skills give him the edge.
In: Joe Staley, Laken Tomlinson, Weston Richburg, Mike McGlinchey, Mike Person, Garry Gilliam, Jonathan Cooper, Joshua Garnett
Out: Erik Magnuson, Darrell Williams, JP Flynn, Andrew Lauderdale, Pace Murphy, Coleman Shelton, Najee Toran, Chris Gonzalez
Until Saturday, Garnett was on the outside looking in. Now, he’s in a legitimate competition for the starting job. Depending on how things go from here, Garnett could still be made available for a trade. Magnuson’s hamstring injury means he is likely to open the season on injured reserve.
In: DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas, Earl Mitchell, Cassius Marsh, Ronald Blair, Sheldon Day, D.J. Jones, Jeremiah Attaochu, Jullian Taylor
Out: Kentavius Street, Niles Scott, Will Sutton, Cedric Thornton
The 49ers could go heavy on defensive linemen to start the season, as they look for someone to emerge as a nickel pass-rusher. Attaochu has a lot of talent, but he is vulnerable if he does not start getting more consistent pressure on the QB. Elvis Dumervil remains an option to re-join the team in a specialized role. Street (ACL) will spend his rookie season on the non-football injury list.
In: Malcolm Smith, Fred Warner, Brock Coyle, Eli Harold, Dekoda Watson, Elijah Lee
Out: (Reuben Foster), Mark Nzeocha, Pita Taumoepenu, Korey Toomer
Foster will not be on the 53-man roster to open the season as he serves a two-game suspension for violating league policies on personal conduct and substances of abuse. The 49ers have some difficult decisions to make with this group. Smith, Warner and Coyle should be enough to hold down the inside linebacker spots until Foster is eligible to return.
In: Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon, Adrian Colbert, Jaquiski Tartt, K’Waun Williams, Jimmie Ward, Tarvarius Moore, D.J. Reed, Greg Mabin, Marcell Harris
Out: Chanceller James, Tarvarus McFadden, Tyvis Powell, Emmanuel Moseley, Antone Exum, Dexter McCoil
Mabin has out-performed McFadden, Powell and Moseley to land one of the final spots on the team. Ward, Moore and Reed give the 49ers good versatility because of their experiences playing multiple positions in the defensive backfield. Harris remains on the 53-man roster to develop for future seasons. James, McFadden and Moseley could be kept around on the practice squad.
In: Robbie Gould, Bradley Pinion, Kyle Nelson
Out: Jeff Locke
Locke is giving Pinion, the incumbent, a good battle. But, ultimately, there is no reason for the 49ers to shake up the lineup of specialists they had last season. Gould and Nelson are unchallenged. Pinion had his best year in 2017 with a net average of 41.3 yards. This is his contract year, so the pressure is on to continue his upward improvement of his first three seasons.